Diet and feeding behaviour of the Long-tailed Shrike

The Long-tailed Shrike is an opportunist feeder. It takes insects like grasshoppers, crickets and beetles, lizards, frogs, small birds and small mammals. It is a fearless hunter, taking most of its prey on the ground. It has a reputation of impaling some of its victims on a sharp spine or broken branch HERE and HERE.

Connie Khoo Siew Yoong, during her observations on Long-tailed Shrikes nesting in a suburban location in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, documented instances of the bird catching Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) (above right), Baya Weaver (Ploceus phillippinus), Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris) and House (Pacific) Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) (above left).

The shrike’s attempts at capturing a Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) and a Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) were however unsuccessful.

On another occasion a lizard was caught by a shrike and offered to its mate who swallowed it whole (left).

Some prey items caught on the ground were taken back to a perch where they were either impaled on a slender branch, or failing which, were hung from a Y-shaped branch (above).

Recounted Connie, “Normally the shrikes would not come down from the nest to catch the Scaly-breasted Munias nesting nearby. But they would occasionally fly down to intimidate them.” According to D. R. Wells (pers. comm.), not hunting close to the nest is a fairly well-known predator behaviour of the shrike.

Small insects and their caterpillars were regularly fed to the chicks. At times the adults brought small birds, tore them into pieces before feeding them to the chicks.

Other food taken by the shrikes include ants, grasshoppers, moths, bees, crickets, termites, spiders (above), centipedes and earthworms.

Shrikes regularly cast pellets of indigestible parts of the prey like exoskeletons of invertebrates, skin of reptiles, feathers of birds, fur of mammals and bones. The pellets are regurgitated about an hour or less after a full meal.

A juvenile was seen casting a 10x14mm pellet when it was 28 days old (above). Another coughed out a pellet consisting of residue of a small lizard with undigested lower part of the tail and skin (left).

Note: This account is a continuation of an earlier post on the nesting behaviour of the Long-tailed Shrike LINK. As with the earlier account, this post has also been compiled from a paper by Khoo Siew Yoong entitled “Observations on the hunting and feeding behaviour of breeding Long-tailed Shrikes Lanius schach” published in BirdingAsia 2011, 16: 71-74. The author thanks Lim Kim Chye for editing the original draft of the paper.

Please visit LINK to view Connie’s many field observations.

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3 Responses

  1. So much details, especially the species of birds that the shrike preyed on. Can tell that Connie is a very dedicated birder – must have spent much time and effort for the observations. Thanks for the detailed observations as well as pictures.

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    • You must know that there are not many birdwatchers like Connie Khoo in Malaysia and Singapore.

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  2. gerry barba

    I found a baby long tail brown shrike when the gardeners trimmed the trees here in the Philippines and I am trying to raise it, so far I get earthworms found on the soil and gave it to the starling…hopefully he will live.

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